Exactly how "at hand" is "the kingdom of God"?

Discussion in '2000-02 Archive' started by Young Disciple, Jul 24, 2002.

  1. Young Disciple

    Young Disciple
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    Grace and peace, y'all...

    I've been doing some reading and word-studying, trying to hammer out my theology (since I'm Disciples of Christ I have to do it myself). I keep going back to the way Jesus starts his ministry in the synoptic gospels, with that beautiful declaration that the kingdom of God/heaven is at hand.

    My questions: Is the kingdom of God something that can exist on the earth or is it completely other than the world? (I know Matthew says "heaven" but he may just be using a Jewish euphemism.)

    If so, can it be said that we are "building" it right now? (not a scriptural image, I know.) Or does it come suddenly when the trumpet sounds in the last days, entirely without assistance from humanity?

    What does the kingdom of God look like? Besides its divine origin, what are the characteristics that separate it from other utopias that people have devised?

    I could tell you all the stuff I thought I found in the Scriptures, but I'm well aware of my own biases in reading. I look forward to your thoughts.

    YD
     
  2. Helen

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    "at hand" means "close by; accessible"

    Jesus was right there...
     
  3. Abiyah

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    Another term for the "Kingdom of Heaven" or the
    "Kingdom of God" is the "body of believers." If
    one believes in our Lord and has accepted the
    gift of salvation, they are a part of the Kingdom of
    Heaven (or off our God).
     
  4. Young Disciple

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    So it is existing right now on this earth? A society of all the believers . . . somehow, I'm not convinced that this group is functioning as the Kingdom of God. What makes the kingdom of God different from the world as usual? (Besides the fact that God is king in the kingdom of God.)

    YD
     
  5. Abiyah

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    YD --

    I believe that the true Kingdom is different from
    the rest of the world, and if its assumed members
    are not, then I do not believe that they really are a
    part of it.

    To give an example, I will tell you about someone
    but change the story just enough to disguise it, so
    that I will not implicate or shame anyone.

    At my last job, there was a young man who claimed
    to be a Baptist. He was totally lacking in All social
    graces and had no control whatsoever over his
    tongue or his anger. No one could imagine how he
    even got in the office.

    We were kind to him, tried to help him, and when
    necessary, we advised him. Being an older woman,
    I tried to "take him under my wing." I took him out to
    business lunches and worked the conversation
    around to certain areas, but nothing phazed him.

    Yet when we were in the office lunch room, guess
    who was the loudest at proclaiming his beliefs,
    putting others down for theirs, and touting his
    church. You got it. It was embarrassing to all
    believers there at first, but it was not long before
    the unbelievers had him pegged and before they
    knew the differences between him and the others
    who called themselves believers.

    When I left, he had not gained one ounce of control
    in his life.

    Now, I cannot sit here and claim decisively that he
    was not a believer, nor can I claiim that all who said
    they were really were, but it was awfully suspicious.
    By evidence to human beings, at least, he was not
    of the Kingdom. Why? Because he was actually
    worse than the others who made no claims of any
    religion at all. Now, I cannot explain that at all. As
    one who only recenty left Arminian beliefs, I have
    no answers.
     
  6. Abiyah

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    YD --

    I believe that the true Kingdom is different from
    the rest of the world, and if its assumed members
    are not, then I do not believe that they really are a
    part of it.

    To give an example, I will tell you about someone
    but change the story just enough to disguise it, so
    that I will not implicate or shame anyone.

    At my last job, there was a young man who claimed
    to be a Baptist. He was totally lacking in All social
    graces and had no control whatsoever over his
    tongue or his anger. No one could imagine how he
    even got in the office.

    We were kind to him, tried to help him, and when
    necessary, we advised him. Being an older woman,
    I tried to "take him under my wing." I took him out to
    business lunches and worked the conversation
    around to certain areas, but nothing phazed him.

    Yet when we were in the office lunch room, guess
    who was the loudest at proclaiming his beliefs,
    putting others down for theirs, and touting his
    church. You got it. It was embarrassing to all
    believers there at first, but it was not long before
    the unbelievers had him pegged and before they
    knew the differences between him and the others
    who called themselves believers.

    When I left, he had not gained one ounce of control
    in his life.

    Now, I cannot sit here and claim decisively that he
    was not a believer, nor can I claiim that all who said
    they were really were, but it was awfully suspicious.
    By evidence to human beings, at least, he was not
    of the Kingdom. Why? Because he was actually
    worse than the others who made no claims of any
    religion at all. Now, I cannot explain that at all. As
    one who only recenty left Arminian beliefs, I have
    no answers.
     
  7. Young Disciple

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    So by their fruits, ye shall know them. The problem is as you said: that sometimes even among non-believers, these fruits are more apparent than among professed believers, those who are citizens of the Kingdom. This makes me very gloomy about the state of the Kingdom of God.

    :confused: I don't know what Arminian beliefs are and I'm actually too lazy to look it up. [​IMG] Could you clue me in? (maybe privately since we'd be off-topic then.)

    YD
     
  8. Helen

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    Young Disciple,

    Don't worry about labels, PLEASE. Concentrate on the Bible and on the Lord Himself. If you look at the storms you will sink. Keep focused on the Lord. That's the first thing.

    Second, when a person is born again, he or she is indwelt by the Holy Spirit -- see Romans 8:9. In Philippians 1:6 and Romans 8:28-30, we find that God Himself takes responsibility for our maturation spiritually. Thus, with the Holy Spirit internally and taking control bit by bit, how could the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven NOT be starting inside?

    Jesus promised peace and joy to His own. I can tell you from experience He meant it and He gives it. In a world full of turmoil and fear and anger and plain old nastiness, that joy and peace is truly a precursor to the fullness of heaven after we are separated from these bodies.

    There was a singing group called Silverwind a number of years ago and they had a song called "Heaven is Being with You" -- here are the words as I remember them -- I think it expresses a bit of what I have been trying to say:

    I've heard stories of heaven
    Pavement made of gold
    Ageless beauty forever
    That never grows old.

    But if I got there
    Only to find out
    Jesus, you were not up there
    Goodbye wings, angel things!

    Heaven is being with you.
    There's nothing I'd rather do.
    There is nothing better...


    Heaven really is being with Him. And when His Holy Spirit is indwelling you, heaven has started inside.

    In the meantime, if a person is not showing that joy and peace, well, we aren't to judge others, but he is either stomping hard on the Holy Spirit (in which case he is going to be severely disciplined by the Lord!) or the Holy Spirit just isn't there...

    It doesn't matter what people say they are, what matters is WHO they are: the old self or born again in Christ. They can go to any church they want and agree or disagree with doctrines until the cows come home, but unless they are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and belong to Christ, none of it matters a bit. (Your friend, Abiyah,
    I think has some choices to make --)

    [ July 26, 2002, 03:40 AM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  9. Helen

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    duplicate post; my apologies

    [ July 26, 2002, 03:37 AM: Message edited by: Helen ]
     
  10. Abiyah

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    Helen --

    I am not sure what choices you believe I must make;
    would you please elaborate? 8o)

    Young Disciple --

    An Arminian, as I was taught in that belief system,
    believes that believers never sin; if they do, then
    they must seek salvation all over again at each
    incident--no exceptions. But there are other Ar-
    minian belief systems in which they accept that
    people do sin, not willfully, and in this case do
    not have to start over. If one sins willfully after
    being born again, though, they must seek sal-
    vation again. Their opposites, speaking simply,
    are Calvinists.
     
  11. Abiyah

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    Perhaps I can see how I was not clear in my post,
    and Helen felt that I needed to explain. My point
    was that some will say they are of the Kingdom,
    but their lives do not have the evidence. Our jobs
    are to make sure that we (first) are of the Kingdom
    and (second) act like we are of the Kingdom. If
    we are not living in such a way that people know
    we are of the Kingdom, then it brings up questions
    like your own here, but our priority of concern re-
    mains, and must remain, ourselves.
     
  12. Young Disciple

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    Okay, I think I know what my mental stumbling block is here. When I think of the Kingdom of God, I envision a community of people who are all living lives worthy of their King. Of course, they are inspired to be loving, gentle, kind, etc. because the Spirit of God dwells within them (and thus your excellent point about where the kingdom begins.)

    But having a lot of people who are each individually indwelt with the Spirit does not equal a unique community that is visible to the world (but it is visible to God who sees all and knows the hearts of all.) Therefore is there no validity to the idea that the Kingdom of God is something more than a scattering of changed (yet separated) individuals? Shouldn't the Kingdom of God be connecting us together as well? I'm stuck on the Acts 2 picture of the church that had all things in common, a kind of divine utopia in the midst of the world.

    BTW: I enjoyed the lyrics.

    YD
     
  13. Helen

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    Abiyah, I was mentioning that the friend you had tried to witness to had choices to make! I'm sorry I was not clear!

    Young Disciple, although we are not a visible church to the world, they and we are very aware of us. I have had a chance to travel in a number of countries and Christians consistently recognize each other, regardless of the language, culture, or which church is worshipped at! I can't explain it, but I've experienced it. In areas where Christianity is looked down on (not illegal, just looked down on!) especially. It IS a kingdom, but, like the Jews, we are scattered! Nevertheless, also like the Jews, our identity is sure and we are known. So instead of being a physical grouping, like a denomination or church, it is an identity. I think a lot of it is hidden in the United States simply because there are so many "Sunday Country Club Christians" in every denomination and church that playing with God and actually being His are pretty blurred issues in the minds of most. But we're here.

    As far as the New Testament church goes, you will find that there are places where this still is more evident, but, again, like the New Testament church, you will find these churches in places where Christianity is not appreciated, so the people MUST gather together and help each other. Here in the United States, the government has taken over most of the social and caring functions of the church and we have accepted that to the point where if someone is in need of medical care or food or shelter, we try to help them find the proper government agency! It almost never occurs to Americans to actually get in there and help on a one-to-one basis anymore. I think that may be a big part of the reason for what you are seeing here in the West.

    But we're here!
     
  14. Abiyah

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    Gotcha this time, Helen! 8o)
     
  15. Young Disciple

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    Thank you for the global perspective. Yes, that is my problem. We're letting a secular government take over our functions as the Kingdom. We end up appearing to be a lot of self-satisfied, individualistic, socially-useless religious people, instead of a community of divine messengers proclaiming Christ's love to the world and doing the work of the gospel.
    Fine, then, I'm going to get off the Internet right now and go out into the world. See ya.

    YD
     
  16. LittleBrother

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    Dear Young Disciple,
    "The kingdom of God is within you"

    -the Holy Spirit is changing us into His (Jesus') image daily. My experience of this ever changing, growing is "a kind of divine uptopia in the midst of the world"

    -there are tens of thousands of disciples scattered throughout the world who show His light beautifully, hundreds of thousands who flicker between darkness and light who need to look to their lamps lest they be ashamed on the Day of His Coming

    -the thorns are growing right beside the wheat Which are you?

    -He (Jesus) is described in scripture as being the "first fruit" of the kingdom of God and we are called to be his disciples, his friends and to die to self in order to become like HIm

    "Taste and see that the Lord, He is good"

    You know you really have a good point here. I don't know anything, but I believe that we are at a time in history where those who are born of the Spirit of Christ should consider themselves in complete solidarity with their brothers and sisters in all other denominations. In that to parody (respectfully) the words of St Paul: 'there is no longer Jew or Gentile, male or female, baptist or anglican, presbyterian or Methodist, Roman Catholic or Lutheran, or Pentecostal for we are ONE in Christ Jesus'. That means we must allow Christ to judge each one's weaknesses. We must allow the visible Church with all its errors to be given over to the Judge of All and we must seek the unity of the Spirit of Christ with all. I think that would help us to achieve a better sense of the growing fulfillment of your question above. This has been my practice and experience and it works on an individual level.Getting people to agree on a broader level? I think there is a growing willingness there among the young. There is hope.

    Yes. Go do it.

    -the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom of this world has NOTHING in common. Go out and do the work of the gospel with those whom the good human heart of the world has cast aside then:

    -when He appears we will discover ourselves to be like Him

    -When He comes He will bring the kingdom of heaven in its fullness. The kingdom of the world will be destroyed and replaced. "Now we see as in a glass darkly,but then face to face; we shall know [Him]even as we are known [by Him]" -poor paraphrase of St Paul

    -the kingdom of heaven breaks through wherever there is a heart and a life fully yeilded to Him

    -"Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand"

    Love and respect

    [ August 05, 2002, 12:16 PM: Message edited by: LittleBrother ]
     
  17. LittleBrother

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    I believe the answer to your question is: both.
    It is not something that can exist of the earth NOW except in shadow or in part. The full realization and capability and reality of the kingdom awaits the Second Coming of our Lord and Redeemer who will destroy the world system and replace it with His kingdom. We, therefore are in training for that Day when we will be set to work in the Millennial Kingdom to restore both earth and humanity on a global scale as you know from Revelation and Ezekiel. The kingdom of heaven does exist FULLY in heaven which I believe exists outside of our universe and the bible is full of descriptions of what takes place there; what is being prepared there for Christ's kingdom on earth; and tells us what we can look forward to in eternity there after the final events of Revelation. Until then "all creation groans for the revelation of the sons of God" even our Redemption.

    Too much in Scripture to attempt to answer you here. Check out Ezikiel (endtimes Temple) check of Revelation (end of) check out Isaiah 50's -the whole book is full of the kingdom of heaven- check out the parables and acts of our Lord and wow! The Bible bursts forth with descriptions of what the kingdom of God will be like when He establishes it on earth. No human idea of utopia comes close. We are not building the kingdom here on earth, the Holy Spirit is ingathering the raw material (humans) in preparation for the kingdom which will come about when He appears on that great Day. HE is building the church here and now in this age of grace; it is Christs work and when we co-operate with His Spirit we become co-inheritors with Christ in the kingdom of heaven. It will come as you suggest, without the assistance of us humans, but we need to be busy seeking and doing His will til He comes.

    Maranatha

    [ August 05, 2002, 12:15 PM: Message edited by: LittleBrother ]
     

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